By Michael Blanding
Gotham Books, $27.50, 320 pages
Michael Blanding’s The Map Thief is equal parts true crime and history lesson, as well as a great introduction to the esoteric world of map collection. Blanding presents the story of E. Forbes Smiley, a successful map dealer with contacts all over the East Coast and throughout Europe. When his business took a turn, Smiley began stealing maps to cover his losses. While Smiley’s life fascinates as the heartfelt core of the story, Blanding gently walks the reader through the obscure world of maps; a world of collectors, dealers, rare book rooms and libraries who acquire, store and preserve maps equivalent in value to the average house. Blanding also details the difficulties that arise when these specialists attempt to catalog maps with an unknown number of copies. True crime novel fans will enjoy the whodunit aspects of The Map Thief, and history buffs will appreciate Smiley’s contribution to historical knowledge of New England. Readers looking for a villain may not find all of Blanding’s conclusions satisfying, but this is a quick read appealing to a large variety of readers.
Reviewed by Katie Richards